I read 6 books in January. Even though I’ve been using Goodreads since 2009, I haven’t applied much quanitified self analysis to my reading habits until this year. But since I’m doing Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge I’m paying much closer attention. In fact, on January 29 or so I noticed that I had read 4 books and I thought to myself, “Surely I can make it 5!” Well, thanks to the books I picked (short-ish, quick reads), I ended up making it 6.

This is why the quantified self is a catch-22 for me: I tend to get a little obsessive. At least reading could hardly be cast as a destructive behavior. Though if you start to notice my house looking a mess and Andy and me looking gaunt because I’ve been reading instead of cooking, maybe you should check in on me.

The Books

  1. Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
    This book was a Christmas gift, and I counted it as “a book published this year” (if “this year” meant 2014, when Book Riot’s list was released). I enjoyed this novel! Ruth Reichl is an excellent food writer, and her memoirs are some of my favorites. While this wasn’t as charming as those, it was enjoyable and the story was engrossing. I saw a lot of Ruth in the main character, but it definitely wasn’t 100% autobiographical. I gave it 4 stars, or “I really liked it,” on Goodreads.

January Book Club read: The Circle by Dave Eggers

  1. The Circle by Dave Eggers
    This was my January book club read, so it wasn’t on the Read Harder list. We all had mixed feelings about this one. It was very readable–I think almost all of us read it in a very short period of time–and yet we were angered by the ending. We agreed that the characters, especially the main female character, were flat, and we wondered if it was because it was a male author trying to write a female character. It didn’t resolve how we wished it would, but the subject matter (privacy and connectedness in a digital age) gave us a lot of food for thought. 3 stars (“I liked it”) on Goodreads, though I would recommend it with the caveat that it’s worth a read for the subject moreso than the writing.

  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
    This book was not for me. Satisfied the sci-fi novel task in the Read Harder challenge. It’s not surprising that I didn’t love it; sci fi and fantasy have never really been my cup of tea. It held my attention well enough, but I wouldn’t read it again. It was just weird, and I had trouble swallowing some of the fantastical elements. Books where the magic is simply interwoven with real life tend to make me uncomfortable. (I KNOW, that’s what Harry Potter is, but it’s different.) I may try out some other Neil Gaiman books that folks recommended, but I may not. 2 stars.

  3. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
    This one fell flat for me. I think the charm of this book must have gotten lost in translation. I went days without reading at all while I was reading this one because it just wasn’t grabbing me enough to make me want to pick it up. I ended up with no concept of how the story at the beginning fit in to the rest of the novel or especially the end. And it just kind of…ended. Perhaps I need to read the rest of the trilogy to get that…but I know I won’t. Checked off “a book that was published in another language,” though. 2 stars.

  4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
    Y’all, Marie Kondo is a little nuts about tidying. This short book was a quick read. It’s been making its waves around the Internet, so I was glad to read it and form my own opinion. On the one hand, I found many of the quirks of the KonMari method to be somewhat ridiculous. On the other hand, I found myself underlining a lot of passages and, when I closed the book, I was overcome with an itch to get rid of all my stuff. So in that sense I suppose it had an influence on me! I decided this would be my self help book for the Read Harder challenge, though I’ll still probably tackle my original picks in that category. 3 stars.

  5. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
    I can barely bring myself to have an opinion about this book. This was my “guilty pleasure” pick for the reading challenge, though I’m not sure it ended up being pleasurable. As with the Twilight books, I’m basically glad I read it so that now I know what all the fuss is about, but even though the ending totally left me hanging, I won’t be picking up the next installment in the trilogy. I couldn’t bring myself to even give this one a star rating.

I’m not sure 6 books a month will be sustainable for me, but it was a pretty fun start to the year!

The Challenge

5/24 completed

A few edits to my picks, as well:

  • A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
    Every Third Thought by John Barth My dad started reading this one and said it wasn’t very fun or good. He suggested Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, instead. Berry was 66 when he wrote it.

  • A book published by an indie press
    I’m planning to pick something here when I visit Powell’s Books in Portland this spring!

  • A book that takes place in Asia
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See A new friend of mine recommended The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, and I love going with recommendations.

  • A microhistory
    The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    I have a copy in-hand now, so this will be next!

  • ✓ A sci-fi novel
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

  • A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
    Wicked by Gregory Maguire A lot of my friends steered me away from Wicked when they read my original post. Instead, I’ll be reading The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, a 1920s re-imagining of the fairytale of the twelve dancing princesses (which I need to read first).

  • A book that someone else has recommended to you
    I’m going to go with Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, which I kind of wanted to read anyway, per my friend Meredith (though tons of the other selections here could have also satisfied this task).

  • ✓ A book that was originally published in another language
    My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (originally written in Italian)

  • ✓ A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure
    50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James (Yep, I went there.)

  • ✓ A book published this year (this year being 2014, when the tasks were published)
    Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (currently reading Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell, which was released in January 2015, so I’ll have this category doubly covered.)

  • ✓ A self-improvement book
    The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

What are you reading these days?

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Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman